Some steps to move downtown buses won't be in place until after viaduct closure

VIDEO: First viaduct closures begin this week

Surviving the three week closure of State Route 99 that begins Jan. 11 depends on buses moving people through Downtown Seattle, but a couple of measures designed to help won't be in place until two months later.

A longer northbound transit pathway on parts of Fifth and Sixth avenues, as well as all-door boarding on more Third Avenue buses won't be in place until late March, when buses leave the downtown transit tunnel for surface streets to make way for more light rail trains.

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All-door boarding allows riders to tap an ORCA fare card on a sidewalk reader and then enter a bus through any door, speeding up the boarding process.

It's currently available only on RapidRide buses.

Riders on all other buses must enter through the front door and pay.

During a media briefing in December, Bill Bryant of King County Metro said that "what's really pushing us into all door boarding is the closure of the tunnel."

Bryant said it takes a while to install 10 more card readers and that system changes need to happen during regularly scheduled Metro service revisions for things to work smoothly.

He also expects the viaduct closure will put more pressure on streets other than Third Avenue.

During that briefing, local officials offered a list of secondary responses to keep buses moving, like restricting turns for people driving alone and extending transit priority areas.

These are measures they'll skip at first and only take if they're needed.

City officials say they are planning to take all the steps traffic engineers project will make a difference and will stay flexible to change plans if needed.